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Dr. Fuhrman on Sirius Doctor Radio!

Posted Jan 15 2009 5:00pm

Check this out. Yesterday morning Dr. Fuhrman was on Sirius Doctor Radio. He joined host Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa and Candle Café owners, Bart Potenza and Joy Pierson, to discuss healthy diets and the recent news that more and more kids are going vegetarian.

Here’s the transcript. I edited around Bart and Joy, but you’ll get the gist of it. Enjoy:

Dr. Rajapaksa:
Welcome back. You’re listening to Doctor Radio on Sirius 114 and XM 119. I’m Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa. And we’re speaking today about vegetarian children. How to make sure they’re healthy.

We’re joined by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. He is the author of Eat For Health and Eat To Live. He’s a board certified family physician in private practice in New Jersey, who specializes in preventing and reserving disease through nutritional and natural methods. Welcome Dr. Fuhrman.

Dr. Fuhrman:
Great to be here, thanks for having me on.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
We wanted to hear all your information and advice about this really interesting topic. About the CDC’s statistic that came out last week, claiming 1 in 200 children are vegetarian here in this country. Is that something that you find surprising?

Dr. Fuhrman:
No, that seems about a reasonable figure.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
Yeah, okay. To me it seems a little high. I didn’t realize that so many children are actually vegetarian, but obliviously this is a trend that is growing here. But our concern is that are these children getting enough of their nutritional requirements, in your opinion what do parents need to be concerned about if their child is vegetarian?

Dr. Fuhrman:
Obviously with a vegetarian diet you may not be getting sufficient vitamin B12 and that’s the main concern for anyone eating a near-vegetarian or vegetarian diet.

But the question I would ask is when you’re not eating a vegetarian diet, if you’re eating a more typical diet and we know for example that luncheon meats, barbeque and processed meats are linked to colon cancer. So you have to question what kind of animal products is this child eating and how are they eating because the excess animal product consumption in America is also linked to early puberty, increasing the risk of both breast cancer and prostate cancer. I think we should be questioning the diet we’re feeding the children who are not vegetarian.

Anyway a child eats, whether near-vegetarian, vegan or eating animal products at every single meal, we know that the diets in America are not ideal and we have about half of all Americans dying of heart attacks and strokes that are linked to low levels of fruit and vegetable consumption. So there’s a much higher probability that a person who’s child is vegetarian or parents who lead that child into that atmosphere are much more likely feeding their child more fruits and vegetables, with the phytochemicals and antioxidants that protect against later life cancer, than a person eating more conventionally and eating McDonald’s, drinking soda and eating all kinds of junk.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
Well, what about the happy median? What about a parent or child who’s not vegetarian, but doesn’t eat a lot of red meat and is eating more fish, chicken, egg whites and things like that. Would that be considered the most ideal diet or do you still think the vegetarian diet is even better?

Dr. Fuhrman:
Absolutely not, what I’m saying is that American diet is about 35% of calories from animal products and, believe it or not, 60% of calories from processed foods and only 5% from fruits and vegetables. Because of that fruit and vegetable deficiency, we’re seeing an epidemic of heart disease and cancer. So if a child is eating animal products at every meal, whether it’s chicken, eggs or fish, they’re still not eating enough fruits and vegetables.

I tell people if you’re not going to be a vegetarian, don’t have more than 1 serving of an animal product per day. That means if you have eggs for breakfast, the rest of the day is vegetarian. If you have some turkey with your lunch, keep the rest of the day fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
So you’re concern is that children are not getting enough vegetables, even if they’re not eating the processed meats, they still need to get a majority of vegetables in their diet.

Dr. Fuhrman:
And fruit, in the Boyd-Orr Cohort Study, which is the largest study on children’s diets where they followed children for 60 years, they found in the lowest quartile of fruit and vegetable consumption, children had a 60% higher risk of all adult cancers. Because what you eat as a child is much more sensitizing to your adult risk of cancer than what you eat as an adult. Meaning a child’s diet is more cancer-causing than the same diet eaten at a later age. When young cells are replicating and dividing they are more susceptible to poor diet.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
What would you advise in terms of good sources of protein and B12 for a child who is vegetarian?

Dr. Fuhrman:
Don’t forget that green vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds are high-protein foods. We laugh, but how did the gorilla, elephant, hippopotamus, rhinoceros and giraffe, get so big? Greens are the mother of all protein because nitrogen comes up from the soil, goes into green vegetables, then the antelope or the zebra eats the grass and then the lion or the tiger eats them. The protein in the antelope or the zebra comes from the grass or green vegetables. The bottom line is green vegetables are about 50% calories from protein.

The point that I am making is all people in America are relatively eating an unhealthy diet. They’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Hopefully parents are feeding their child a healthy vegetarian diet and aren’t feeding them junk food. Because whether you are eating meat or not, junk food is still junk food. But when you’re eating beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, green vegetables and real food that natural made you automatically get all the essential amino acids. So protein is a non-issue. You couldn’t even scientifically devise a diet low protein as long as it was made of natural foods.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
Now what about iron? What if a pediatrician was worried that a vegetarian child wasn’t getting enough iron? Is that something you need to be concerned about as a parent?

Dr. Fuhrman:
No, not really. Green vegetables, beans, seeds and tofu have sufficient iron.

The only thing to worry about is vitamin D, but they fortify vitamin D into cow’s milk, it’s not in cow’s milk naturally. And they add vitamin D to soymilk, almond milk, hemp milk and all the milks vegetarians are drinking. They add vitamin B12 to that too. Most Americans are vitamin D deficient, whether they eat a vegetarian diet or not and we need to be conscious of the proper use of supplements and foods fortified with vitamin D to make sure we don’t become deficient in certain vitamins.

I just wonder why people worry about a vegetarian diet. The same issues are there, the potential of vitamin deficiency, with a non-vegetarian diet. So of course I’m an advocate of healthy eating, whether you are vegetarian or not.

Bart Potenza (Candle Café):
And I heard that vegetarians don’t have a higher rate of anemia than non-vegetarians. Is that true Dr. Fuhrman?

Dr. Fuhrman:
Yes, that’s true. In studies of rural China, where animal product consumption is exceptionally low, because they were eating lower amounts of animal products, they found women had less excessive bleeding during menstrual cycle periods. And they had less iron deficiency-anemia because they thought that heighten estrogens were promoted by a diet too high in animal products, leading to excess bleeding. When you don’t have excessive bleeding, you maintain the iron you eat.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
Dr. Fuhrman, you’ve actually advocated a vegetarian diet or certain diets to help children with certain chronic diseases, like Type-2 diabetes, is that correct?

Dr. Fuhrman:
Yes, Type-2 diabetes is predominantly caused by eating too many calories and being overweight and the excess fat on the body prompts insulin uptake. So we want to have dietary excellence and exercise be the major treatment rather than putting people on drugs because insulin can cause weight gain and make the person more diabetic.

We always want to consider medicine to be the last resort, instead of the first choice. And that’s with almost every disease. Exercise and good nutrition should be the primary focus of most physicians. With most medical conditions nutritional intervention can more effective than medication at controlling and reversing the condition, like heart disease and high blood pressure.

First caller:
Thank you for taking my call. I have a question about my 6 year old daughter, she barely eats anything. And I am particularly concerned about her fiber intake because she does have constipation. I try giving her whole grains and fruits and vegetables but she maybe eats a couple bites and then lets it sit.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
Is this something that has been going on for a long time? Or is this a new issue with her?

First caller:
She’s always been small eater. But it’s exacerbated.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
Is she growing appropriately and gaining weight?

First caller:
She seems to be average with the children in her class.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
What do you think Dr. Fuhrman?

Dr. Fuhrman:
Most children have an excellent guide of how much they should eat, if their height and weight is adequate, usually the problem is with the parent and not the child. The child has a better idea than the parent about how much food they need to eat.

Any doctor would follow this child on the growth curve. If she is following on the growth curve adequately for height and weight, than probably she’s eating the right amount of calories for her body.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
I can feel for this caller. This is a huge source of anxiety for parents. My son doesn’t eat either. He doesn’t want to eat. Every night it’s a battle. And you feel guilty as a parent that you’re giving them what they need and they’re never going to grow.

So I guess what you’re saying Dr. Fuhrman is as long as the growth curve is okay the parent really doesn’t need worry?

Dr. Fuhrman:
Yes, but they should be concerned about the quality of the food the child is eating, but not really the amount. I have kids and my son, who is the youngest. I’m surprised about how little he eats! But since my household only has healthy choices, he is not going to be filling up his little appetite with low-nutrient food, because the foods the available are so good.

So I would suggest to the caller, regarding the fiber, making her daughter fruits shakes, maybe throw a little spinach or lettuce into the shake. That’s a good way to make sure they’re eating their vegetables.

For your house, make sure you know what foods are high in nutrients and really stock them up in your kitchen and remove low-nutrient foods, like white flour and sugar and traditional junk foods, such as cold cereals, so children don’t fill their little appetites on low-nutrient foods.

I tell people all the time. If you were shipwrecked on a tropical island you would learn to eat what was available on the island. So make your house an island of healthy natural foods.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
We have another caller. But first, I want to ask you Dr. Fuhrman. Do you ever wonder if the parent is very strict about healthy eating that when the child leaves the house they’re going to go overboard with the junk food because it’s been so restricted in their home?

Dr. Fuhrman:
No, I don’t think that’s true. It’s the same thing as making your child wear their seatbelt and have them brush their teeth.

Keeping healthy foods in the home and making them taste good, like making a cake with shredded zucchini, carrots, beets, chocolate powder and nuts, we’re making healthy foods in the house. And we’re saying this is a sign of love because we care about our children so much take to the effort and care to teach them to eat right and exercise.

You want them if they are away to say, I can’t wait to get home and eat our healthy food that we have in the house. There’s so much junk out there!

I say to my son, you can’t eat all that kale! You’ll get too strong, you’ll get stronger me and I can’t have you being stronger than me. And if he gives me a little shove I’ll do a back flip over the couch and say, get away from me with all that strength! Get that kale away from this kid!

Second caller:
I’m trying actually following a diet that emphasizes low protein once a day, lots of beans, lots of vegetables, but one of the things the diet discourages is the use of grains, because the feeling is grains spike appetite. I’d like some feed back and opinions on that.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
Dr. Fuhrman, what do you think? Is this concern about grains, even the complex carbohydrates causing a spike in appetite, is that true?

Dr. Fuhrman:
I don’t think so. But certainly vegetables are more nutrient-dense than grains, and when people to eat enough vegetables everyday and keep grains to minimal level of servings so they don’t take up their appetite on grains and not skip on eating green vegetables.

The point here is we want to eat less of the foods with low nutrient-density and not avoid the foods with the higher nutrient-density. Grains only have about one-fifth of the nutrient-density of green vegetables. So grains can be a healthy part of a diet, if you’re active and not overweight, but careful you don’t eat too many grains. And certainly whole-grains are the more beneficial grains.

I think this caller is on the right track, eating fewer grains, as long as she is eating fewer grains and eating plenty of beans and vegetables and other sources of healthy carbohydrates, you don’t have to eat grains. The idea of the old food pyramid with 6 to 11 servings of whole-grains a day is not necessary, 1 or 2 servings a day is plenty.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
Thanks caller. Now, let me ask you Dr. Fuhrman. If you just literally had fruits and vegetables all day, is that enough to keep you healthy? Do you need some grains or some other component?

Dr. Fuhrman:
Well, since vegetables are so low in calories, especially green with only 100 calories per pound, you might be low in calories. So you probably need some nuts, seeds and maybe a little grains or at least some starchy vegetables, like corn, sweet potato and squash, to get enough calories because green vegetables are so low in calories. You’d be too hungry by the end of the day. You just wouldn’t be getting enough calories.

Dr. Rajapaksa:
Okay great. We’re just running out of time here. Well thank you so much to all our guests. Thank you Dr. Fuhrman. I’m Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa and you’ve been listening to Doctor Radio on Sirius 114 and XM 119. Thanks for joining us.

Now, I hope everyone appreciates that I stayed up until 2AM transcribing this thing! And, in case you forgot, Dr. Fuhrman first appeared on Sirius radio this summer. Howard 100 News called to get his opinion on Robin Quivers’ claim that a vegan diet helps her stay cool during the summer.

Oh, and as for Candle Café. I gave Candle Café high marks for Eating to Live on the Outside!

Image credit: Sirius Doctor Radio

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